YORKTOWN, N.Y. – While a state legislative vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana is not expected until April, town officials are investigating how they might be able to head off its possible sale and use on the local level.
The Town Board last week discussed enacting zoning regulations to limit or eliminate the sale of the drug in the community as well as enjoining other municipalities in a so-called memorandum of understanding to opt out of the legalization process.
Town attorney Richard Abbate, who was asked to look into steps the board could take to lessen the impact legalization might have on the community, advised, “One of the things you can do is adjust the local zoning law to preclude the sale of recreational marijuana as long as you do it for the purposes of preserving your community and keeping the character of the community…You can’t do it just because you say I don’t like marijuana smoking and I don’t want it in my neighborhood.”
However, he said, “It may be premature, because when and if the state legalizes it, you don’t know how they’re going to do that,” suggesting it might be sold through state-owned dispensaries and sales may require state licensing. Should that be the case, Abbate said, the board could adjust its law or laws accordingly.
“There should be no 10-second sound bite on this discussion, but I do believe, I think, from discussions I’ve had with everyone on this board, we are not happy with the idea of legalization,” Supervisor Ilan Gilbert said at the board’s meeting Tuesday, Jan. 22. “I have a real problem with the concept of doing this for the purpose of raising revenue,” which has been touted by supporters as a key benefit.
Gilbert said that while “30 states have moved in that direction…the reason to hold out is there’s research that shows the juvenile mind is still developing to the age of 24, and with that said…the marijuana today is not the marijuana of the ’70s or ’60s. You use it once, and you use it in a developing mind, it’s chemical-changing, it’s hallucinogenic.”
In addition, he said, “The fact that we’re putting a stamp on it, you’re implying you’re giving a stamp of approval, and I have an objection to that, too.”
Councilman Ed Lachterman said he and Councilman Tom Diana have been researching steps the board could take, as well.
Lachterman said the town could issue an MOU, or memorandum of understanding, and opt out of the legalization process. The action requires 100,000-plus signatories, which could be gained by reaching out to surrounding towns. He said Mount Pleasant is “already working on” taking such action, and Bedford and Somers were interested, so “there’s definitely some critical mass” interested in joining should the town support the measure.
“I’m not just a little bit upset about it; I am vehemently opposed to having marijuana sold in the town of Yorktown,” Diana said. “I don’t care if it’s tax-generating or whatever at this point in time. It’s a gateway drug,” he said, referring to the belief that marijuana use leads to the use of harder drugs. “They are putting more stuff in this marijuana now than just picking it off the vine, so to speak, and rolling it up.”
Councilwoman Alice Roker noted that when it came to the issue of adult entertainment, the town was able to restrict such facilities to the industrial district.
Gilbert leafed through articles he brought containing statistics related to legalization, including accidents and deaths related to marijuana use in states that have legalized the drug’s recreational use, saying, “There’s no getting around it. This is just like the tobacco companies; there’s big money behind it.”
“You should be preaching to George Latimer and you should be preaching to [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo,” Lachterman said, to which Gilbert shook his head in a rejection of political overtones in the discussion.
“We need to let them know we’re not happy,” Lachterman responded.
“Whatever we decide to do, it needs to survive legal muster,” Gilbert said.
The board is expected to review a law Abbate had drafted to address the zoning issue.